Yamaha’s decision to leave WSB will have “no effect whatsoever on the release of new bikes”, a senior company figure has claimed.
The race team – which was axed earlier this month with four meetings left in the season – was a victim of a series of financial challenges faced by the Japanese firm, including a 2009 operating loss of £1.4bn, the difficulties of finding effective sponsorship, and a 50% year-on-year decline of supersports sales in 2010/2011.
The troubles have led Yamaha insiders to claim that the next few years will lead to “consolidation” of the road range, not new development.
But Andrew Smith - Vice President of Yamaha Motor Europe’s Sales & Marketing Operations – says Yamaha’s plans for new road bikes will remain unchanged. Find a Yamaha motorcycle for sale. He told MCN: “There is no connection between the WSB withdrawal and the development of new road bikes.
"There is 00.00% connection, and the WSB decision will have no effect whatsoever on the release of new bikes.
“If you look at the numbers of new models introduced to the market over the past five years, Yamaha stands at least in the top three of manufacturers and probably at number one.
“The market remains very affected by model introductions. In the mature market we are selling to the enthusiast, whose reasons to buy can be substantially increased by a new product, or a product development. We recognise that. We need to bring in new products to stimulate our market.
"We need to bring in new products to help customers come back to Yamaha or to upgrade their current Yamaha.
“We are 54 years old as a company and ultimately we will survive by the new products that we bring to the market. As a manufacturer R&D is fundamental. The ongoing development of our products is essential for us to remain a major player. We have a number of projects ongoing from 50cc scooters up to large capacity motorcycles.
“Yes, in 2009 there were many stories about our losses of £1.5bn. But, there weren’t many stories about turning that loss into a very small profit in 2010. To go from one to the other was remarkable.
"We continued to run a WSB team throughout that period. We’re currently running a MotoGP team – with four bikes and riders – with no major sponsor. Our commitment to motorcycling and motorsport is without check.”
Recently released industry figures show a 58% decline in R6 sales compared to last year, and a 42% fall in R1 sales. Smith – while accepting the challenges – believes that Yamaha will remain dedicated to the supersports market. He said:
“Our sales of larger capacity machines are disappointing this year, when you consider the product line-up. The R6 has not changed for four years, and we’re now in the third year of the R1. We expected sales to be down and we increased our pricing accordingly.
"The overall supersport market is down 14% this year, and Yamaha is down 51%. We’re not alone; BMW is 35% down, Suzuki is 28% down. But, between 2008-2010 we’ve increased our market share annually to become the market leaders.
"Supersport remains an important part of our brand, from a brand image point of view, and from a development point of view, but it has been in continual decline for the past five years.
“In contrast, the 125cc sector is actually level with last year, as are the bikes in our On/Off range.”